Friday 28 January 2005

James Orrell, Poet

Extract from Turton Tales I, by R. Lindop, pages 5-7.

Another direct descendant of the Orrells of Turton Manor was John Orrell, a joiner, born at Turton, but who later moved to Bolton. He was father to William Orrell, parish clerk of Bolton, who published a book of poems, mainly on religious subjects, in 1789. More well known as a local poet, however, is James Orrell, son of William and his wife Betty, and who was born in Little Bolton in 1755 and died 23 April 1818. James Orrell, also a parish clerk of Bolton, published in 1793 his ‘Original Poems on a Variety of Subjects’. William and James Orrell both served as parish clerk during the period when the Rev. James Folds held the Lectureship of Bolton. This witty and eccentric Lecturer was better known as ‘Parson Folds’.

James Orrell’s poems are the better known than his father’s since they cover subjects of local interest such as cloth stealing from bleaching crofts, the royalist ceremonies at Tong Fold, and football in Bolton. It is James Orrell’s poem ‘The Irish Burial’ which contains a description of an early game of football in Bolton. This poem makes interesting reading since it appears that the game was played in clogs, up and down the main street, and sometimes in the river as well.

 ‘For once I saw the bold Boltonian swains, 
With wooden shoes, with iron plated strong,
Fierce o'er the rattling pavement roll along: 
A bladder pent within a leathern case 
Was toss'd aloft, a smile array'd each face. 
There might’st thou see some hero rush along,
Chief of his party, agile, bold, and strong; 
With such a force he kicks the bounding ball, 
His footing fails, and earth receives his fall;
But from his downfall quick, with force alert, 
He rises in the dignity of dirt;
His lovely form, th’enraptur’d crowds explore, 
So thick with stinking honours spatter'd o’er, 
The shouts of loud applause torment the skies; 
Elate with fame, his hands, his feet, his eyes 
Are all employ’d his hard-earned fame to keep, 
Scarce thro' the thick spread mire his eye-balls peep; 
Yet to’ard the ball with furious haste doth go, 
Swift as an arrow leaves the twanging bow, 
Amidst the crowd the hero rushes quick, 
With joy receives each honourable kick: 
A universal uproar rings around, 
Contending clogs and crashing windows found,
Confusion, tumult, riot reign o’er all:
Now on the river falls the dancing ball, 
The crowd, array'd in majesty of mud, 
Impetuous plunge, amid the roaring flood; 
Fierce as Pelides in Scamander's wave, 
They strike, and kick, and all their bodies save. 
Not Alexander cross'd the Granic stream 
With mightier force, or greater thirst of fame, 
Nor aught can drive away this boisterous scene, 
(Ambition in some form in all is seen) 
Or from their much lov'd ancient custom draw, 
Not dungeon dark, or iron fang of law, 
But, Martyr like, they by no threats subdued, 
Stand to their cause with noble fortitude.‘

At this point in the original copy of the Poems, there is a most interesting footnote, which reads:

‘The foot-ball play, which appeared so ridiculous to Patrick, does not at present exist; for by the active exertions of the magistrates, this foolish custom is totally abolished.‘